Four residents, three of them young parents who said they were speaking for others, attended the Oct. 15 Vassalboro selectmen’s meeting to protest closing the town-owned ballfields in East Vassalboro.
Zachary and Melissa Olson said groups of parents and children had been using the fields, with their own sports equipment and with no town involvement. Someone notified Police Chief Mark Brown and they were ordered to leave.
Selectmen and Town Manager Mary Sabins explained they had closed the fields two weeks earlier, after children in the Vassalboro recreation program shared transportation with students from Windsor school, where Covid-19 was found.
Sabins said she consulted with Recreation Director Danielle Sullivan and school officials, especially nurse MaryAnn Fortin, before ending the town recreation program for the season and closing the fields for two weeks. The two weeks ended Oct. 15, she said, and if people want to use the fields, they may.
“I’m a risk manager,” Sabins said. “Your children and all of us were at risk.”
The discussion ended with consensus that there is no plan for town-sponsored use of the ballfields this fall. Residents who bring their own equipment and supplies may use the property at their own risk. Sabins warned everyone on the fields to stay well away from the snack shack that is being reroofed, to avoid machinery, roofing nails and other possible hazards.
Board Chairman John Melrose said selectmen could have done better at explaining and publicizing the closure. He reminded the audience that, not for the first time since March, board members were dealing with a novel situation and making up a solution on the spot. He proposed they discuss developing a policy for pandemic-related decisions.
Returning to items from past meetings, selectmen voted unanimously that they support the volunteer fire department’s five-year lease-purchase of a new fire truck, as authorized by town meeting voters. Firefighter Michael Vashon said the fire department reserve fund lacks about $11,000 of the July 2021 lease payment; the department is fund-raising.
Selectmen will again wait for more information on the fire department’s need for a new repeater and on the future of the Conservation Commission. Sabins said a Conservation Commission meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 20.
Selectmen voted unanimously to deny Susan Little’s request for an additional streetlight in East Vassalboro, but to include the request in the proposed 2021-22 budget next year.
Sabins said Central Maine Power Company account manager Tammy Pierce said the new light would cost $9.10 a month rental, plus the energy cost. Little offered to cover the monthly charge for at least a year, but Sabins said town policy doesn’t authorize such donations.
Selectmen were concerned about the precedent they might set. Between now and budget preparation time they intend to see if they receive other requests. Sabins could remember only one new light approved during her tenure, on Cemetery Street near the Sanitary District office.
The next Vassalboro selectmen’s meeting is scheduled for an unusual time and day: 2:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 28, instead of the usual Thursday evening. Beginning at 4 p.m., Oct. 28, board members will tour the North Vassalboro and Riverside fire stations, under Fire Chief Walker Thompson’s guidance.
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